London could pay price of high-cost litigation

For a long time now, anecdotal evidence has hinted at the declining use of London's courts to resolve commercial disputes. But the figures published today in The Lawyer reveal the true extent of that decline.

Industry is increasingly resorting to alternative dispute resolution and mediation, and the one over-riding and fundamental reason for this is the sheer cost of litigating in London's courts.

The knee-jerk reaction is to blame this decline on lawyers in the capital pricing themselves out of business. Fees are clearly high but so too are overheads in the capital.

Regional players are not overburdened by exorbitant rents, huge wage bills and a myriad of other costs. But while perhaps in previous years, provincial firms lacked expertise and the resources to attract blue-chip clients, that is clearly no longer the case.

The legal market is changing. Competition for London can only be a good thing. London still remains the hub for legal activity, but it will have to offer an ever-improving service if it is to maintain its market share while charging the highest fees in the business.